early keyboards

Early May 2003: I am standing at Minnesota airport in the immigration line together with a bunch of tourists. Not very many of those, the plane had been full of homecomers with their fresh memories of sand dust and blown-up bridges or worse (my neighbor gave me an eye-witness account of incidents that I had seen on CNN only a week earlier).

I am bound for the conference “Four Centuries of Great Keyboard Instruments: What They Tell Us” at the National Music Museum in Vermillion, South Dakota. On my green visa waiver slip, I have written under ‘purpose of visit’: “attention at early keyboard conference”.

The immigration officer, an amiable huge man, frowns. “What’s that, early keyboards? How early are those?”

“Well, from the eighteenth century, you know.”

I see him look somewhat insecurely at his computer. “What, keyboards like this?”

I was allowed to enter the States, of course. It helped that he knew what a piano was.

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